The climate across Nepal varies widely. Though Nepal’s latitude is about the same as that of Florida, with elevations ranging from less than 100 meters (300 ft) to over 8,000 meters (26,000 ft), and precipitation from 160 millimeters (6 in) to over 5,000 millimeters (16 ft), the country’s climate zones range from tropical to perpetual snow.
The majority of Nepal’s population reside in tropical and subtropical climate zones in the nation’s Middle Hills (see map above). The middle hills cover about 65 percent of Nepal’s total land area and are home to around 45 percent of the population. Rice and other grains are cultivated in these climate zones.
The temperate climate zone is found from 2,000 to 3,000 meters (6,600 to 9,800 ft) and occupies 12 percent of Nepal’s land area. It is encountered in higher parts of the Middle Hills and throughout much of the Mountain region. Crops grown in this climate zone include cold-tolerant rice, maize, wheat, barley, potato, apple, walnut, peach, various cole, amaranthus and buckwheat.
The subalpine zone ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 meters (9,800 to 13,100 ft) and occupies 9 percent of Nepal’s land area. It is found mainly in the Mountain and Himalayan regions. Permanent settlements can be found within this zone in the Himalayas, but further south it is only seasonally occupied as pasture for sheep, goats, yak, and hybrids in warmer months. Crops include barley, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, amaranthus, buckwheat and apple. Medicinal plants are gathered.
The alpine zone from 4,000 to 5,000 meters (13,100 to 16,400 ft) occupies 8 percent of the country’s land area. There are a few permanent settlements above 4,000 meters, but virtually no plant cultivation, although medicinal herbs are gathered. Sheep, goats, yaks and hybrids are pastured in this zone in warmer months.
Above 5,000 meters the climate becomes nival and there is no human habitation or seasonal use.